Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, has emerged as a leading expert on the mass incarceration of Uyghurs in internment camps in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Last month, he published a report detailing a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of forced sterilizations and abortions targeting Uyghurs in region, which he concluded may amount to a government-led campaign of genocide according to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Last week, Representative James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the chairman and cochairman of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging them to respond to the report by condemning the population control policy and imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible.
Zenz recently spoke with RFA’s Uyghur Service director Alim Seytoff about the letter, which he said is part of a bid by the bipartisan group of lawmakers to pressure U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to take a stronger stance on the situation in the XUAR, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps since April 2017. While Trump last month signed legislation that provides for sanctions against Chinese officials deemed responsible for abuses in the region under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, such measures have not yet been taken.
My response was that when the senators and the members of congress mentioned ‘atrocity crimes’ they basically challenged the State Department to make a determination of what is the nature of the crimes and the atrocities in Xinjiang … The legal determination can be made by legal experts from a government, such as the United States government, and I believe that would be the State Department who would make such a determination. On the other hand, such a legal determination can be made by the United Nations. So, for example, the State Department could make a determination that these are crimes against humanity. It could also make a determination that these would amount to genocide as laid forth by the United Nations Convention.
To call something genocide legally—there’s only one legal definition of genocide and that’s the United Nations Convention. And it is now, for the first time, that there is fairly conclusive evidence of one of the criteria of the convention—namely the prevention of births. So, the United Nations Genocide Convention definition is fairly narrow. It does not include things like cultural genocide, ethnocide, etcetera. I think it’s easier to make a determination for crimes against humanity because crimes against humanity do not require an atrocity to meet the exact definition of the U.N. Genocide Convention. But the [U.S.] Holocaust [Memorial] Museum [in Washington], they said earlier this year that China’s actions in Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity.
The main purpose of the letter is to request a legal determination and a public determination of what exactly is the nature of the crime because, so far, the State Department has only made statements on it. It has called it a crime, it has called it an atrocity, it has said that it is bad, it’s disruptive, it must be condemned, it must be stopped, but it has not made a public determination of the nature of this crime. And I think, by not having done so, it also is less responsible for taking certain courses of action. So, this is a shortcoming—a shortcoming of the State Department. This letter seeks to address this shortcoming and challenges the State Department and the Treasury to make such a determination and announce it publicly.
Reported by Jewlan for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.